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from Territorial Rights by Muriel Spark

Territorial Rights isn’t Spark at the top of her game, but even Spark at half power is more inspired than most writers at their best. It takes place in Venice, where a handful of English acquaintances improbably, ridiculously, end up at the same pensione. One is a young man, Robert, who has recently walked out on Curran, his chicken queen, in Paris in order to chase Lina, a young Bulgarian art student who may or may not be under surveillance by Bulgarian spies (the novel was published in 1979 and takes place not long before then).

Robert disappears, perhaps at the hands of those same Bulgarian spies, and Lina befriends Curran, who in turn gets her a job doing sociology research for his friend Violet, yet another English expatriate who does research abroad for a private detective agency. Leo, who is traveling with Grace, who is in Venice to find out about her former lover, Robert’s father (also in Venice, with yet another adulterous companion) on behalf of Robert’s mother (back in England).

Lina moves into the attic apartment of Violet and soon after begins sleeping with Leo (Robert, remember, has gone missing).

Another scream, a bang, a man’s voice protesting, trying to placate. Violet precipitated herself out to the landing, in time to see the little lift descending and, through its glass windows, Lina with her head thrown back dramatically and, her hands clutching her head, giving out frightful animalistic noises.

The lift passed the upper floor of Violet’s apartment and reached the ground floor of the building. Violet, followed by Curran, had run down the flight of stairs to meet the descending lift, while Grace, outside Violet’s landing joined the banister audience.

Lina flew out of the lift, still yelling wildly, barefoot, dressed in a huge yellow flannel nightdress and throwing her arms around in a way which was quite alarming to watch. Violet caught old of her, and Curran, too, tried to hold her, both joining the exclaiming chorus of people above in the tall echoing palazzo. ‘What’s the matter? … Lina, whatever is the matter? You’ll catch your death … Stop … Wait! ….’

But Lina had struggled free in a flash and had opened the front door. She ran out on to the landing-stage. She turned with her back t the water for just a moment in order to cry out ‘Leo is the son of a Jew — I have slept with a Jew — God, oh God! — I must cleanse myself! I die for shame!’ And with a further shriek the girl half-turned and dropped into the canal.

That would be a canal in Venice.

You’re Welcome!

Perhaps the Most Important Catholic Writer who you’ve never heard of…

And his name is not Walter Percy or Walker Miller – or even this guy’s name – but it could be

wolfe

the Dylanologists

We interrupt this casting call to bring you some really old news about Bob Dylan. Somehow I missed this when it came out at the end of Spring, so if one of the others has posted this already, well … so what?

I’d read about Dylan’s use of the Yakuza autobiography, which made a funny kind of sense, and then of course his impersonation of the Civil War poet, which made a lot more sense, but some of the stuff in this A.V. Club article shows how he took it to a whole ‘nother level. Surfing with Mel fans, take note:

When Warmuth found similarities between phrases in Chronicles and Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’s book about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, American Rhapsody, he was dumbfounded. “Even I was thinking, ‘There’s no chance,’ but as it turns out, some of the more salty lines in Chronicles comes from Eszterhas!”

Jack London, John Dos Passos, and even self-help author Robert Greene are all fair game.

Dylan’s response to charges of plagiarism?

“All those motherfuckers can rot in hell,” he said. “Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff….It’s an old thing,” he said of appropriation. “It’s part of the tradition. It goes way back.”

Makes you wonder why anybody would spend $250 for the right to quote from his lyrics to Gotta Serve Somebody, Trouble in Mind, and I and I.

Maybe add “sucker” to that list.

Art Is a Joke

‘[The Goldfinch] can strike the eye […] from afar [as a true-to-life image of a bird]. [But] Fabritius, he’s making a pun on the genre […]  a masterly riposte to the whole idea of trompe l’oeil […] because in other passages of the work – the head? the wing? – not creaturely or literal in the slightest, he takes the image apart very deliberately to show us how he painted it. Daubs and patches, very shaped and hand-worked, the neckline especially, a solid piece of paint, very abstract. […] There’s a doubleness. You see the mark, you see the paint for the paint, and also the living bird. […]

‘It’s a joke, the Fabritius. It has a joke at its heart. And that’s what all the greatest masters do. Rembrandt. Velazquez. Late Titian. They make jokes. They amuse themselves. They build up the illusion, the trick – but, step closer? it falls apart into brushstrokes. Abstract, unearthly. A different and much deeper sort of beauty altogether. The thing and yet not the thing.’

From a monologue by Horst, an art dealer (of sorts) in The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

Follow-up to follow-up to follow-up to previous day’s post

Familia Romana - p. 19

From LINGVA LATINA PER SE ILLVSTRATA – PARS I: FAMILIA ROMANA, by Hans H. Ørberg.…

Follow-up to follow-up to previous day’s post

IMG_1449

 

From See Dick and Jane Run by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp…

 

 

What The Korrektiv Did for Its October Vacation

Perhaps Percy’s most intriguing work, Lost in the Cosmos is a weird yet satisfying book – a hybrid of philosophical inquiry, satire, cultural analysis, multiple choice questions, thought experiments and (“What the hell, why not?” you can hear Percy say) even fiction. Perhaps the book most closely resembles Melville’s own loose but not-so-baggy monster, Moby Dick. But Lost in the Cosmos stands well on its own. The quality and quantity of presenters at the conference attested to its enduring worth—with more than 40 papers covering everything from liturgy to pornography to interstellar exploration to mimetic theory to Marshall McLuhan.

Look what came in the mail…

DSC_1283

Long awaited (at least by me) – Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J.F. Powers, 1942-1963. 

It’s been edited  by the author’s daughter Katherine A. Powers, and an uncorrected proof copy was sent to me, unsolicited. They must think I’m some sort of Powers scholar – and given half a chance I would be…

Already dipped into the thing – and lots of gems in the introduction by Ms. Powers:

“Well before the publication of his first novel Morte D’Urban in 1962, my father…planed to write a novel about ‘family life,’ an intention that persisted for the rest of his life. … The man falls in love, gets married, has numerous children – but has neither money nor home. He finds no pleasant ease and little of the fellowship of like minds he associated with the literary life [he didn’t have Korrektiv] he had thought was to be his own. The novel would be called Flesh, a word infused with Jansenist distaste, conveying a bleak comedy and terrible bathos of high aesthetic and spiritual aspiration in hopeless contest with human needs and material necessity.”

“The letters that make up this story begin with Him at age twenty-five and the acceptance for publication of his first short story. They then leap forward to letters from prison [where Powers, a pacifist, served time as a conscientious objector during WWII] and on through those recording high hopes, great promise, and a passionate courtship and marriage to Betty Wahl. Then comes the black comedy of children, five all told, great poverty, bad luck, and balked creativity. Central to this progression is the matter of where and how to live. Jim’s married life was dominated by the search for ‘suitable accommodations,’ for a house that would reflect and foster the high calling of the artist. In the course of their married life… the couple moved more than twenty times.”

And one more:

“In his letters to his friends…He often adopted a tone of macabre relish for the hopelessness of his situation: the absence of a house, the presence of many children and a desperate wife, the amount of time he had spent on the mechanics of life, the piddling nature of his daily doings, and his longing for and lack of camaraderie.

“‘We have her no lasting home’ was his constant refrain, drawing, with feigned smugness, on Christian teaching… In any case, the phrase always had the torque of a joke, for the Powerses were forever on the move, leaving some houses out of the urge to quit the country (whichever one it happened to be at the time [America or Ireland]), laving other houses because they were taken by eminent domain or sold out from under them. But Jim also meant the statement as a summary of his essential belief: that life on earth doesn’t make sense and that when you understood that, you understood reality. Still, for a person who held that the world is an obstacle-strewn journey toward one’s proper home (heaven), he was more than ordinarily affronted by hardship and adversity, to say nothing of mediocrity and dullness. He was no stoic, and he took it all personally.”

Then Ms. powers quotes one of her father’s 1979 letter to her, who was “then thirty-one and living, as were his other children, far away: ‘You referred to [Powers’ son] Boz’s plan for me to make a lot of money so we can move back to Ireland. He may be right. I see it as idealism, but what else would work for our family? A big house not too far from Dublin, [daughter] Jane weaving and dyeing in one room, [son]Hugh philosophizing and botanizing in another, Boz and family in one wing, [daughter] Mary etching in one tower, Katherine reading in another, Mama in the garden, Daddy with The Irish Times and The Daily Telegraph in his study.’

“To which scheme I say to myself now, as I did then: Oh, dear.”

 

Is NOTHING sacred…?

anne upped

Apparently not.

Doctor Thomas More
    or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lapsometer

Photo by Gsmith

Photo by Gsmith

About a month ago, I finished reading Dr Percy’s stab at science-fiction, Love in the Ruins. I had no time to blog about it then, and have little time to blog about it at the moment, but here are a few scattered, superficial, spoiler-free initial thoughts:

  • My overall impression was similar to that of Korrektiv fellow-traveler Craig Burrell, who reviewed the novel in 2011. Like him, I think the premise is great, but the telling of the tale is overlong and under-focused. Some severe trimming would have improved the book considerably.
  • That said, the main cast is nicely drawn, and the creeper-covered neo-New South setting felt, if not believably realistic, then persuasively consistent. Also consistently unsettling, with its islands of shiny modernity and pockets of old poverty amid the ruins of the [1940s-1960s(?) ’70s(?)] ‘Auto Age’. The automated carillon of the abandoned church in the middle of nowhere, playing religious and secular Christmas carols — and college football fight songs! — on the Fourth of July, echoing off a derelict drive-in movie screen, is especially haunting.
  • Overall, the book was not — and Dr Percy, in his essay ‘Concerning Love in the Ruins, says the book was not meant to be — a prophetic prediction of the future (as, e.g., Brave New World has ended up being). Still, this line from Dr Tom More, describing the gadgets of his own shambolic future-world, hit close to home: ‘Appliances […] are more splendid than ever before, but when they break down nobody will fix them.’
  • Percy also predicted the rise of steampunk! Tom More climbs into his colleague’s ‘electric Toyota bubbletop, a great black saucer of a car and silent as a hearse’ and notes the anachronistic contrast of its interior styling: ‘These days it is the fashion to do car interiors in wood and brass like Jules Verne vehicles.’
  • Speaking of stylistic throwbacks: The diabolical, deodorized, flat-topped Art Immelman reminds me of the Harry Trumanesque space alien from the ‘THE LAST DONAHUE SHOW’ thought experiment in Lost in the Cosmos. They both seem like good fits for a David Lynch movie.

Have you read Love in the Ruins? What did you see, like, dislike, feel, think?

Thrill me with your acumen.